Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada aims to raise $3.5 million with the goal of creating new dances and doing more touring.

The Moncton, N.B.-based Atlantic Ballet, started just six years ago by artistic director Igor Dobrovolskiy and Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, launched a formal fundraising campaign on Thursday.

There is plenty of optimism around the young company, despite the economic recession that has some arts organizations struggling.

The ballet group's 12 dancers have toured internationally, and their innovative contemporary repertoire has won acclaim.

Len Lockhart, a member of the ballet's board, candidly admits he didn't think the company had much of a chance when it was launched six years ago.

"That news was greeted with both anticipation and disbelief — with emphasis on the latter I can assure you," he told CBC News.

Now there are plans afoot to add an additional two dancers and develop a fund that would ensure the creation of at least one original ballet every year. The Atlantic Ballet also plans more regional, national and international touring.

Alex MacBeath, a member of Grant Thornton's international office in London and a leader in the fundraising campaign, said he was attracted by the company's strong business plan.

MacBeath, who used to be the head of the firm in Canada, said he's seen every Atlantic Ballet show since the first one.

"People were invited that evening with some skepticism, some uncertainty, as to what the experience was going to be like," he said.

"Now when you come down — I come every year —  you feel the buzz within the theatre. You feel the excitement … and that's what they've been able to accomplish within Atlantic  Canada."

The Atlantic Ballet is starting its campaign with $1.1 million already raised toward its goal, with significant donations from Grant Thornton, Margaret Norrie McCain, the McCain Foundation and the Lockhart Foundation, among several donors.

With files from CBC's Marc Genuist